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PATRIOTISM—Does being a Christian mean that I should be patriotic?

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Flags. Photograph copyrighted © Djburrill

The Bible is very clear that governments are established by God. Romans 13 tells us that all authority comes from God and that we must be in subjection to it. Verse 2 states,

“Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God.”

Paul explains that governments are a blessing, they keep the peace. Paul told Titus (3:1) to…

“…remind them (the believers at Crete) to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed.”

If you desire to live for Christ then you will do your best to live in subjection to His ordained authority.

Paul not only encouraged believers to obey governments, but also to pray for them. I Timothy 2:1-2 states,

“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quite life in all godliness and dignity.”

Paul encourages us to live by the laws of the land and further to pray for our leaders. This is especially interesting since Paul was writing during the reign of emperor Nero, who was famous for persecuting Christians.

Billy Sunday.
Evangelist Billy Sunday. United States Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

However, patriotism often indicates more than mere obedience and prayer. For many, patriotism implies a deep commitment and love for their country; a “love it or leave it” attitude. Many Christians have associated loyalty to their nation (or nationality) with loyalty to God. “Christianity and Patriotism are synonymous terms,” said evangelist Billy Sunday, “and hell and traitors are synonymous.” Thus, one of America's most effective evangelists fell into the trap of confusing the Christian faith with the religion of American patriotism.

Paul does not encourage this type of patriotism in his writings. In I Peter 2:11, while urging civil obedience, he refers to believers as “aliens and strangers” in an ungodly world. He understood that the Christian's citizenship is in heaven, not among the countries of the earth. We serve (and are loyal to) the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. No other allegiance is as important as our commitment to God.

Copyrighted photograph.

I, too, am proud of the United States. However, I also remember being extremely proud of my high school. As I cheered for our football team, I honestly felt that there was not a school in the entire world that was better than mine. When I entered college, I realized that all high schools are basically very similar. None are worthy of being elevated to a “supreme school” status.

Perhaps this is the way it will be when we enter Heaven. We may feel blessed for living in America, but I doubt that we will feel any patriotic allegiance when we realize that our true commitment has belonged to God all the time. Standing before Christ, we will look around and see that He has blessed people from every part of the world throughout history. We will realize that (like the Sabbath) nations were created to serve man and not the other way around.

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Author: Mark Van Bebber of Films for Christ.

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